Key stakeholders call on government to fix Services Australia in desperate plea to improve services

Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been warned the social services system has the capacity to ruin lives if the government does not take urgent action.

In a shared statement, the unions and key stakeholders have called on the government to act with compassion and boost resources to Services Australia in a desperate plea to fix the system.

“Covid-19 highlights the need for a strong, supportive, accessible and publicly funded social security system more than ever,” the statement said.

AUSSIE POVERTY
Camera IconThe government is being called on to fix the issues with Services Australia. NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett Credit: News Corp Australia

The list of demands – co-authored by the unions and stakeholders such as Australian Council of Social Services, St Vincent de Paul Society and People with Disability Australia – include hiring more staff and social workers, and redesigning debt recovery processes.

Public service union boss Alistair Waters told NCA Newswire recent hiring changes meant Australians were worse off when it came to accessing Services Australia.

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“Under the Morrison government, insecure work at Services Australia has increased every year, with now over 30 per cent of workers in some form of insecure employment,” he said.

“What the government’s privatisation of Services Australia jobs means is less training and less security for workers, higher turnover, more time spent fixing mistakes for permanent staff, more errors and real delays for the community.

COVID PAYMENTS
Camera IconThe group says Covid has only shown how important the social services system is. NCA NewsWire / Adam Yip Credit: News Corp Australia

He added if the system was not urgently fixed, it could inflict real damage on everyday Australians.

“The way a government runs agencies like Services Australia has the capacity to ruin lives, just like we saw from the Robodebt program,” Mr Waters said.

“When the scheme was first announced, CPSU members working in debt recovery questioned its legality, only to be told by senior management and the minister to “get back to work”.

NCA Newswire sought comment from the office of Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds.

LIST OF DEMANDS

  • Commit to developing a respectful and compassionate social security system, including by:
  • Implementing the Raise the Rates recommendations so everyone is able to afford the basics of life and live above the poverty line
  • Increasing resources for phone and face-to-face services, and making access easier, to genuinely support older Australians and all those who struggle with the drive to use online services
  • Removing breach powers from private JobActive providers and returning them to Services Australia
  • Redesigning the debt recovery process so it is fair and humane, allowing trained and experienced staff to exercise discretion. Reinstating the statute of limitations for debt recovery
  • Respecting affected Australians by abolishing the cashless debit card and income quarantining methods
  • Increasing staffing numbers for the Indigenous Services business line
  • Hiring more social workers so they can fulfil their case management role supporting vulnerable members of the community, not just process claims
  • Rebuilding in-house capacity and expertise of Services Australia by converting insecure workers to secure APS jobs, with proper training, where they can build up experience.

Originally published as Key stakeholders call on government to fix Services Australia in desperate plea to improve services

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